Italian Vogue Paving the Way for Real Women


What makes a model, particularly a high fashion model? Is it a tall thin frame? High cheekbones? Or a quirky yet photographic face? Is it the ability to stomp down the catwalk in impossible heels on stick thin legs? What is it exactly that defines a person as a professional high fashion model? Ever since the decline of the super-models from the 90s, fashion magazines have given us image after image of underdeveloped young women, often girls under 18. We’ve been told with and without words that this is the ideal body. We’ve been shown that only the thinnest of women have a right to sex, confidence and high fashion clothing. What a horrible blow to our moral this has been. Thankfully the winds of change are blowing. Over the course of the past year it has been my pleasure to report not only on the rise of the plus size model but the greater inclusion of fashion designed with a fuller figure in mind. The first ever plus size fashion show to occur during New York Fashion Week took place this year and, while the clothing was less than desirable, the door is now open for other shows of this nature. And, while fashion mags continue to fill pages with emaciated juveniles, there has been a steady and noticeable increase in the use of models with fully developed bodies.

Italian Vogue has taken a bold step in propelling the fashion industry forward towards embracing the larger woman. The black and white cover of their June edition features three plus size models who are, quite frankly, gorgeous. In a recent interview, Editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani said that the initial desire to use curvy women in Italian Vogue came out of responses from commentators signing her petition against pro-anorexia websites. According to Sozzani women would happily sign the petition(which you can still do here) but then question the magazine’s continued use of extremely thin models. The direct voice of her readers prompted a defensive response from Sozzani, leading her to do what no one thought Italian Vogue would ever do; use beautiful, curvy women in its magazine and on its cover.

While reactions to the game-changing cover have been mostly positive, plus size model and photographer Velvet d’Amour is quick to point out that none of these women are actually dressed in high fashion clothing. Though she is complimentary to the magazine for taking this step, she makes a very compelling argument on the fashion blog Frockwriter about women of size and the fashion industry.

According to Velvet: “The way I see it is we need fashion to catch up to women of size, in order to make a stunning FASHION oriented editorial. If you were to take the average Vogue Italian editorial, and attempt to dress these same models in the clothes, best of luck to the stylist to find their size.” She goes on to point out that fleshy, curvy women have been relegated to men’s magazines while editorial fashion has focused on feeding us “a steady diet of rail thin, white, tall youth for the most part.” Indeed if you look again at the images of curvy, plus size models you will notice that they are often in various states of undress including nude. To actually dress a larger model in high fashion clothing is still out of the question.

While I thank Franca Sozzani for stepping up to meet the rising demands from her readers for more full figured and full grown women, I think she missed a great opportunity to teach a real lesson about beauty. Dressing the models only in lingerie feeds into the perception that large women are only beautiful as objects of rubenesque design. There still seems to be no desire to dress those frames highlighting their hourglass curves, full bust and dangerous hips. As it stands, other than some dedicated retailers like Evans and JD Williams, high fashion is still available only to the select few while the rest of us are best left shivering in our knickers.

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